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Samantha Ali

SFU Co-op Alumni
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication

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Two girls looking at a computer together
"I had no 'job hunting' etiquette. Now it all feels more natural and I see the value of learning these skills and how everything fits together."

Reilika Raestik is our third Career Friends member profiled as part of a three article series. Sometimes it's hard to imagine where you could meet people to job hunt with. It might feel like everyone around you already has a job or that they're too busy with their own job hunt. The truth of the matter is that it never hurts to ask and expand your circle of career friends.

My partner came home one night and mentioned in passing that one of his colleagues and his partner, Reilika, had recently moved to Vancouver. They had moved here from Europe and I couldn't help but wonder if she was in need of some company. Job hunting, especially in a new country, can be intimidating at best. So, I called Reilika and told her that Career Friends was taking shape and invited her to attend our first meeting. She didn't hesitate to join.

Reilika isn't in Communications (like the rest of us in the group) and I remember once receiving a very valuable piece of advice about including in your network people that aren't in your field. Reilika graduated in 2003 from Uppsala University in Sweden with a Masters in Economics and Business Administration. She speaks five languages and has a varied work history. She certainly impressed me, but this did not leave even her immune from expressing frustration. She had no idea what she was getting herself into when she agreed to move to Vancouver with her partner. "We arrived in November and it took a long time to find things and get settled in. All the simple daily things like laundry and shopping became small adventures. I stayed at home a lot and applied to jobs over the internet. I wasn't getting the response that I was hoping for and I didn't know why. It was definitely a really low point for me," tells Reilika.

Reilika felt that she wanted to talk to people about the job market, about Vancouver, about anything job-related, but not everyone was always interested in talking about that. "My partner would get invited to social gatherings and I went of course. I met someone that belonged to a book club and joined. I learned that I could perhaps volunteer to get on the right track, so shortly thereafter I began volunteering at the Progressive Housing Society in Burnaby. This was an okay start, but I was really in a depressed state of mind. I wondered: What if I never get a job? What use is my education to me? How come I feel so unqualified?"

Reilika says that she felt relieved when I called and told her about the group. "It felt wonderful to meet and talk to other Canadians also looking for work. I learned a lot and saw that I was going about job hunting all wrong. I had a European-style resume for starters! I didn't know what networking was and how to do it. I had no 'job hunting' etiquette. Now it all feels more natural and I see the value of learning these skills and how everything fits together," she says.

Reilika was a quick learner and immediately dove into networking. Through the Estonian Consulate, she discovered a Baltic business forum and went to it. Reilika is originally from Estonia, so she thought that it was a good place to start. Through getting to know some of the people there, she got a job as an Assistant Receptionist for a company that deals with waste management. "I was so happy to be out of the house and I felt useful for the first time since I'd arrived in Vancouver. Unfortunately this was short-lived. I had gotten the job because the company believed that they would be short- staffed when this was not the case. After two weeks they let me go. It was pretty devastating," she remembers.

Fortunately while she had been volunteering with the Progressive Housing Society, Reilika went to a conference and took the opportunity to verbalize her goal of working in the environmental sector. She happened to meet a senior manager from the GVRD and this led to another meeting and then another. It took a few months, but Reilika never stopped taking steps toward her goal. She is now currently an in-house consultant for the economic analysis of water conservation measures in the Lower Mainland at the GVRD. It was a perfect fit. 

Reflecting back on her experiences, Reilika swears by networking. "It's the only way that I've ever managed to find a job. It was the scariest thing for me and took the most effort, but it's definitely the most rewarding. There are no job postings and no competition when you want to work on contract. I have services to offer people and I learned to articulate that. It feels very good."

If given the opportunity to do it all over again, Reilika looks back and regrets not exploiting resources out there like the public library. There is a lot of information out there for someone that doesn't know how to go about looking for a job. She says, "I also valued having the support of the group and goals to strive for, especially after losing my first job after two weeks. I didn't know if I could keep going. Being a part of the group was a useful resource and great moral support when I needed it most. It actually put fun in to the job hunting."

Beyond the Blog

About the Author

Samantha Ali

SFU Co-op Alumni
Communication, Art + Technology › Communication
Samantha Ali is an independent contractor. Her current clients include Vancouver Coastal Health as well as the National Research Council for Fuel Cell's Innovation. She keeps in touch with all of the members of Career Friends and they recently celebrated their one year anniversary. Samantha also enjoys knitting (even though she was really slow at learning the ropes – literally) and started a spin-off Knit n’ Bitch group

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